Greatest Players Under 6 Feet in NBA History
Perspective is everything. But when we watch NBA games, it's easy to forget that the players who look like they're the shortest ones on the court are usually around 6-foot-4.
So it's exciting to see a player under 6 feet tall playing among the giants. It's also why they become stars when they have success. And they provide a true David vs. Goliath matchup.
These are the greatest players under 6 feet in NBA history.
25. Ralph O'Brien
Born: April 8, 1928 (Henshaw, Kentucky)
Died: Aug. 22, 2018 (age 90, Clearwater Beach, Florida)
High school: George Washington High School (Indianapolis, Indiana)
NBA career: 3 seasons (1951-53)
Teams: Waterloo Hawks (1951), Indianapolis Olympians (1951-52), Baltimore Bullets (1952-53)
Bottom line: There's something legendary about making it to the NBA when you're just 5-foot-9, but even Ralph O'Brien took that to another level with a backstory worthy of Paul Bunyan.
As a boy in Depression-era Kentucky, O'Brien became known for challenging other boys to fight outside of a local grocery store in order to make extra money. The store's owner saw this, came out and said, "Well you're no bigger than a buckshot, aren't you?" And the nickname stuck for life.
O'Brien was the last Butler player to make it to the NBA until Gordon Hayward was picked No. 9 overall by the Utah Jazz in 2010.
24. Willie Somerset
Born: March 17, 1942 (Sharon, Pennsylvania)
High school: Farrell High School (Farrell, Pennsylvania)
NBA career: 3 seasons (1965, 1967-69)
Teams: Baltimore Bullets (1965), New York Nets (1967-69)
Bottom line: Willie Somerset played in an era when playing in the NBA wasn't necessarily the end-all, be-all if you wanted to play professional basketball.
Somerset played just eight games in the NBA before hopping to the ABA and playing almost 200 games for the New York Nets (a future NBA team), where he averaged 22.6 points and was an ABA All-Star in 1969.
Somerset was also an All-American at Duquesne and one of the greatest high school basketball players in Pennsylvania history, where he led Farrell High to back-to-back state championships in 1959 and 1960.
23. Dino Martin
Born: May 25, 1920 (Newport, Rhode Island)
Died: July 24, 1999 (age 79, Bonita Springs, Florida)
High school: La Salle Academy (Providence, Rhode Island)
NBA career: 2 seasons (1946-48)
Teams: Providence Steamrollers
Bottom line: Dino Martin was a prep basketball star in his native Rhode Island before becoming the first Georgetown player to make it to the NBA and becoming the first player in NBA history to score 40 points in a single game.
Martin's time in the league was relatively short, but he averaged 12.2 points as a rookie, then had a dramatic drop off in his scoring production in his second and final season.
In a testament to what basketball was in its early days, Martin left the NBA to coach tennis and basketball at his alma mater, La Salle Academy, mostly because it was for more pay than he was making playing basketball.
Martin was the head coach at Boston College from 1953 to 1962 and died in 1999 at 79 years old.
22. Fred Scolari
Born: March 1, 1922 (San Francisco, California)
Died: Oct. 17, 2002 (age 80, San Ramon, California)
High school: Galileo High School (San Francisco, California)
College: San Francisco
NBA career: 9 seasons (1946-55)
Teams: Washington Capitols (1946-51), Syracuse Nationals (1951), Baltimore Bullets (1951-53), Fort Wayne Pistons (1953-54), Boston Celtics (1954-55)
Bottom line: Fred Scolari was short, overweight, blind in one eye and deaf in one ear. The cruel nickname given to him at a young age — "Fat Freddie" — had little effect on Scolari, a San Francisco basketball legend who went on to play nine seasons in the NBA.
One of the most unlikely people ever to pull on the jersey of a professional sports team, Scolari was a two-time NBA All-Star in 1952 and 1953, when he was one of the league's top scorers and actually coached the team as well in 1951-52.
21. Greg Grant
Born: Aug. 29, 1966 (Trenton, New Jersey)
High school: Trenton Central High School (Trenton, New Jersey)
College: Trenton College of New Jersey
NBA career: 6 seasons (1989-93, 1995, 1996)
Teams: Phoenix Suns (1989-90), New York Knicks (1990-91), Charlotte Hornets (1991), Philadelphia 76ers (1991-93, 1995), Denver Nuggets (1995, 1996)
Bottom line: Greg Grant went from working in the New Jersey fish markets as a teenager to playground legend status before becoming a two-time All-American and the NCAA Division III National Player of the Year at Trenton College of New Jersey in 1989.
Few players make it from Division III to the NBA and even fewer (if any) do it at just 5-foot-9, but Grant found a way to stick around for six seasons.
In 2010, Grant became head coach at his alma mater, Trenton Central High, and led them to a state runner-up finish.
20. Keith Jennings
Born: Nov. 2, 1968 (Culpeper, Virginia)
High school: Culpeper County High School (Culpeper County, Virginia)
College: East Tennessee State
NBA career: 3 seasons (1992-95)
Teams: Golden State Warriors
Bottom line: Standing at just 5-foot-7, Keith Jennings was an All-American at East Tennessee State before becoming one of the shortest players in NBA history after he made the Golden State Warriors as an undrafted free agent in 1992.
Jennings lasted three seasons in the NBA and was a consistent role player in that time, averaging 18.0 minutes, 6.6 points and 3.3 assists.
Jennings parlayed his success in the NBA into a lucrative career overseas, playing in top European leagues until 2005.
19. Scott Brooks
Born: July 31, 1965 (French Camp, California)
High school: East Union High School (Manteca, California)
College: UC Irvine
NBA career: 10 seasons (1988-98)
Teams: Philadelphia 76ers (1988-90), Minnesota Timberwolves (1990-92), Houston Rockets (1992-95), Dallas Mavericks (1995-96), New York Knicks (1996-97), Cleveland Cavaliers (1997-98)
Bottom line: Scott Brooks was a tough-as-nails reserve guard for six different teams over a decade in the NBA, even winning an NBA championship with the Houston Rockets in 1994.
Brooks was a longshot to make it to the NBA in the first place. He went undrafted out of UC Irvine in 1987 and won a CBA championship with the Albany Patroons in 1988 before getting a break with the 76ers.
Brooks is much more well-known now as the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder from 2008-16 and as the head coach of the Washington Wizards since 2016.
18. D.J. Augustin
Born: Nov. 10, 1987 (New Orleans, Louisiana)
High school: Hightower High School (Missouri City, Texas)
NBA career: 13 seasons (2008-present)
Teams: Charlotte Bobcats (2008-12), Indiana Pacers (2012-13), Toronto Raptors (2013), Chicago Bulls (2013-14), Detroit Pistons (2014-15), Oklahoma City Thunder (2015-16), Denver Nuggets (2016), Orlando Magic (2016-20), Milwaukee Bucks (2020-21), Houston Rockets (2021-present)
Bottom line: Admit it. You were surprised D.J. Augustin is still in the NBA just like we were.
Say what you will about the University of Texas product who shot to fame playing alongside Kevin Durant as freshman phenoms for the Longhorns, but that kind of longevity is something to tip your cap to.
It was probably a reach for the Charlotte Bobcats to take Augustin at No. 9 overall in the 2008 NBA draft, but he's been a solid role player his entire career as evidenced by his 9.7 points and 4.0 assists averages.
17. Avery Johnson
Born: March 25, 1965 (New Orleans, Louisiana)
High school: St. Augustine High School (New Orleans, Louisiana)
NBA career: 15 seasons (1988-2003)
Teams: Seattle SuperSonics (1988-90), Denver Nuggets (1990, 2001-02), San Antonio Spurs (1991, 1992-93, 1994-2001), Houston Rockets (1992), Golden State Warriors (1993-94, 2003-04), Dallas Mavericks (2002-03)
Bottom line: Avery Johnson jumped on the basketball map when he became the first player in NCAA Division I history to average double figures in points and assists in 1987-88, when he averaged 11.6 points and led the nation with 13.3 assists.
Johnson made the Seattle SuperSonics as an undrafted free agent in 1988 and bounced between teams for several years before finding his footing with the San Antonio Spurs, where he won an NBA championship in 1999.
Johnson was the NBA Coach of the Year with the Dallas Mavericks in 2006 after he led them to the NBA Finals and was the head coach at the University of Alabama from 2015 to 2019.
16. Ty Lawson
Born: Nov. 3, 1987 (Clinton, Maryland)
High school: Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Virginia)
College: North Carolina
NBA career: 9 seasons (2009-18)
Teams: Denver Nuggets (2009-15), Houston Rockets (2015-16), Indiana Pacers (2016), Sacramento Kings (2016-17), Washington Wizards (2018)
Bottom line: Ty Lawson led the University of North Carolina to the NCAA championship in 2009, becoming the first point guard named ACC Player of the Year since fellow Tar Heel Phil Ford in 1978.
The stocky, diminutive Lawson left school early and was the No. 18 overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft. Lawson's career in the NBA was a relatively short nine seasons due in large part to a string of alcohol-related arrests, including three DUI violations in two years.
Lawson hasn't played in the NBA since 2018 but still plays professionally overseas, spending the last few seasons in top leagues in China and Greece.
15. Earl Boykins
Born: June 2, 1976 (Cleveland, Ohio)
High school: Central Catholic High School (Cleveland, Ohio)
College: Eastern Michigan
NBA career: 13 seasons (1999-2012)
Teams: New Jersey Nets (1999), Cleveland Cavaliers (1999, 2000), Orlando Magic (1999), Los Angeles Clippers (2000-02), Golden State Warriors (2002-03), Denver Nuggets (2003-07), Milwaukee Bucks (2007-08, 2010-11), Charlotte Bobcats (2008), Washington Wizards (2009-10), Houston Rockets (2012)
Bottom line: Earl Boykins is the second-shortest player in NBA history at only two inches taller than 5-foot-3 Muggsy Bogues.
Boykins grabbed the spotlight for the first time during his college career at Eastern Michigan, where he finished second in the nation in scoring as a senior when he averaged 28.6 points.
Boykins scrapped and clawed his way to the NBA, where he played for 10 teams over 13 seasons and scored big with a five-year, $14 million contract with the Denver Nuggets in 2003.
14. Brevin Knight
Born: Nov. 8, 1975 (Livingston, New Jersey)
High school: Seton Hall Prep (West Orange, New Jersey)
NBA career: 12 seasons (1997-2009)
Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers (1997-2001), Atlanta Hawks (2001), Memphis Grizzlies (2001-03), Phoenix Suns (2003), Washington Wizards (2003-04), Milwaukee Bucks (2004), Charlotte Bobcats (2004-07), Los Angeles Clippers (2007-08), Utah Jazz (2008-09)
Bottom line: Brevin Knight had few scholarship opportunities coming out of Seton Hall Prep in New Jersey despite leading his team to three consecutive state championships and ended up at Stanford only after a spot came open at the last minute.
Knight became one of the best players in Stanford history as a three-time All-Pac-10 pick and All-American as a senior in 1997.
Knight was selected No. 16 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers and made the All-NBA Rookie Team in 1998 after he led the league in steals.
13. Nate Robinson
Born: May 31, 1984 (Seattle, Washington)
High school: James Logan High School (Union City, California)
NBA career: 10 seasons (2005-15)
Teams: New York Knicks (2005-10), Boston Celtics (2010-11), Oklahoma City Thunder (2011), Golden State Warriors (2012), Chicago Bulls (2012-13), Denver Nuggets (2013-15), Los Angeles Clippers (2015), New Orleans Pelicans (2015)
Bottom line: Nate Robinson could have been a pro in two different sports. He started as a true freshman cornerback for the University of Washington in 2002 but decided to focus entirely on basketball after that.
Robinson's decision paid off in a big way. He was a two-time All-Pac-10 selection and the No. 21 overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft. He played 10 seasons in the league and is the only person to win the NBA Slam Dunk Contest three times.
12. Dana Barros
Born: April 13, 1967 (Boston, Massachusetts)
High school: Xaverian Brothers High School (Westwood, Massachusetts)
College: Boston College
NBA career: 14 seasons (1989-2002, 2004)
Teams: Seattle SuperSonics (1989-93), Philadelphia 76ers (1993-95), Boston Celtics (1995-2000, 2004), Detroit Pistons (2000-02)
Bottom line: Dana Barros was a reserve guard for the Seattle SuperSonics for the first four years of his career but came into his own after he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in 1993.
With the Sixers, Barros had a career-defining season in 1994-95, making his lone All-Star team and winning NBA Most Improved Player honors when he averaged career highs of 20.6 points, 7.5 assists and 1.8 steals.
Barros was a player almost better suited to have played in the current era. He shot 41 percent from beyond the 3-point arc for his career.
11. J.J. Barea
Born: June 26, 1985 (Mayaguez, Puerto Rico)
High school: Miami Christian School (Miami, Florida)
NBA career: 14 seasons (2006-20)
Teams: Dallas Mavericks (2006-11, 2014-20), Minnesota Timberwolves (2011-14)
Bottom line: J.J. Barea went undrafted after an All-American career at Northeastern but made the Dallas Mavericks as an undrafted free agent in 2006.
Barea was never more valuable than in the 2011 NBA Finals, when Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle inserted him into the starting lineup with the Mavs trailing the series 2-1. Barea sparked a comeback, and the Mavericks reeled off three consecutive wins for the only NBA title in franchise history.
This is where we also point out that there's no way Barea is 5-foot-10 and give props to all the media guide gurus who spotted him two inches over the years.
10. Charlie Criss
Born: Nov. 6, 1948 (Valhalla, New York)
High school: Gorton High School (Yonkers, New York)
College: New Mexico State
NBA career: 9 seasons(1977-86)
Teams: Atlanta Hawks (1977-82, 1985-86), San Diego Clippers (1981-83), Milwaukee Bucks (1982-85)
Bottom line: It's heartening to imagine players on every level — high school to junior college to Division I to the pros — sizing up Charlie Criss and thinking they actually had a shot at guarding him.
Spoiler alert: They did not.
Criss won back-to-back CBA Most Valuable Player honors, once scoring 72 points in a single game, before he got a shot in the NBA. Criss was the shortest player in the league when he broke through with the Atlanta Hawks in 1977 and averaged 8.2 points for his nine-year career.
9. Michael Adams
Born: Jan. 19, 1963 (Hartford, Connecticut)
High school: Hartford Public High School (Hartford, Connecticut)
College: Boston College
NBA career: 11 seasons (1985-96)
Teams: Sacramento Kings (1985), Washington Bullets (1986-87, 1991-94), Denver Nuggets (1987-91), Washington Bullets (1991-94), Charlotte Hornets (1994-96)
Bottom line: If you watched NBA games in the late 1980s and early 1990s you probably remember Michael Adams for having one of the more distinctive jump shots of all time —a physics-defying shot from the hip.
Adams was an absolute walking bucket during his 11 seasons in the league and had one of the best individual seasons for a player under 6 feet in NBA history in 1990-91, when he averaged 26.5 points, 10.5 assists and 2.2 steals for the Denver Nuggets.
Adams was voted to play in the NBA All-Star Game in 1992 and averaged 14.7 points and 6.4 assists for his career.
8. Spud Webb
Born: July 13, 1963 (Dallas, Texas)
High school: Wilmer-Hutchins High School (Dallas, Texas)
College: North Carolina State
NBA career: 13 seasons (1985-98)
Teams: Atlanta Hawks (1985-91, 1995-96), Sacramento Kings (1991-95), Minnesota Timberwolves (1996), Orlando Magic (1998)
Bottom line: Spud Webb became a worldwide basketball sensation when he won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 1986, going head-to-head with teammate Dominique Wilkins despite being one of the shortest players in league history.
Webb, who could actually dunk by the time he was 5-foot-3, was told from the time he was very young that he wouldn't be able to play basketball because he was too short. He spent the rest of his career proving those doubters horribly, terribly wrong.
Webb played 13 seasons in the NBA and averaged 9.9 points and 5.6 assists.
7. Terrell Brandon
Born: May 20, 1970 (Portland, Oregon)
High school: Grant High School (Portland, Oregon)
NBA career: 12 seasons (1991-2003)
Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers (1991-97), Milwaukee Bucks (1997-99), Minnesota Timberwolves (1999-2003)
Bottom line: One of two Portland, Oregon, natives to make the list alongside Damon Stoudamire, Terrell Brandon overcame a foot deformity to lead Grant High School to the Class AAA Oregon state championship in 1988.
Brandon stayed in-state to play for the University of Oregon, where he was an All-American and became the first player to leave school early for the NBA.
He was a lottery pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1991, then played 12 seasons in the league and was a two-time NBA All-Star.
6. Isaiah Thomas
Born: Feb. 7, 1989 (Tacoma, Washington)
High school: South Kent School (South Kent, Connecticut)
NBA career: 10 seasons (2011-present)
Teams: Sacramento Kings (2011-2014), Phoenix Suns (2014-2015). Boston Celtics (2015-2017), Cleveland Cavaliers (2017-2018), Los Angeles Lakers (2018), Denver Nuggets (2018-2019), Washington Wizards (2019-2020), New Orleans Pelicans (2021-present)
Bottom line: Few players in NBA history have dominated on the offensive end of the court and been under 6 feet tall. Even fewer have done it as well as Isaiah Thomas.
The former University of Washington star's career might be defined by his toughness, but not necessarily how you might imagine.
On the verge of signing a max free agency contract following the 2017 season, Thomas played through pain with the Boston Celtics when he shouldn't have and exacerbated a debilitating hip injury. All told, playing through the pain cost him about $150 million.
5. Damon Stoudamire
Born: Sept. 3, 1973 (Portland, Oregon)
High school: Woodrow Wilson High School (Portland, Oregon)
NBA career: 13 seasons (1995-2008)
Teams: Toronto Raptors (1995-98), Portland Trail Blazers (1998-2005), Memphis Grizzlies (2005-08), San Antonio Spurs (2008)
Bottom Line: Damon Stoudamire
Damon Stoudamire is one of two Portland, Oregon, natives to make the list of the greatest players under 6 feet, following in the footsteps of fellow NBA lottery pick Terrell Brandon.
Stoudamire starred at Arizona in college and won NBA Rookie of the Year honors in 1996 with the Toronto Raptors — the shortest player in NBA history to win that honor.
He became best known for his role as one of the leaders of his hometown Portland Trail Blazers in the late 1990s and early 2000s in an era when the team was known as much for its troubles off the court as their success on it. Stoudamire has been the head coach at University of the Pacific since 2016.
4. Slater Martin
Born: Oct. 22, 1925 (Elmina, Texas)
Died: Oct. 18, 2012 (age 86, Houston, Texas)
High school: Jefferson Davis High School (Houston, Texas)
NBA career: 11 seasons (1949-60)
Teams: Minneapolis Lakers (1949-56), New York Knicks (1956), St. Louis Hawks (1956-60)
Bottom Line: Slater Martin
Slater Martin was one of the greatest winners in NBA history. He won five NBA championships in 11 seasons and was a seven-time NBA All-Star.
Martin also was one of the NBA's best defensive players during the 1950s and won his first four NBA titles alongside legendary center George Mikan on the Minneapolis Lakers, then added another title with the St. Louis Hawks in 1958.
Martin, who is the only University of Texas basketball player in the Naismith Hall of Fame, died in 2012 at 86 years old.
3. Calvin Murphy
Born: May 9, 1948 (Norwalk, Connecticut)
High school: Norwalk High School (Norwalk, Connecticut)
NBA Career: 13 seasons (1970-83)
Teams: San Diego/Houston Rockets
Bottom Line: Calvin Murphy
It's a shame that Calvin Murphy only made one All-Star team in his 13-year career, but that's more of an indictment of the people voting than Murphy, who dominated NBA competition at just 5-foot-9.
Murphy retired as the leading scorer in franchise history for the Rockets, his only NBA team. He played his entire career with the Rockets after moving with them from San Diego to Houston.
Murphy averaged 17.9 points in 1,002 games and helped lead his team to the NBA Finals in 1981.
2. Allen Iverson
Born: June 7, 1975 (Hampton, Virginia)
High school: Bethel High School (Hampton, Virginia)
NBA career: 14 seasons (1996-2010)
Teams: Philadelphia 76ers (1996-2006, 2009-10), Denver Nuggets (2006-08), Detroit Pistons (2008-09), Memphis Grizzlies (2009)
Bottom Line: Allen Iverson
One of the most popular athletes in NBA history, Allen Iverson is the shortest player to be named NBA Most Valuable Player when he won the award in 2001.
That brings us to the nexus of our entire argument about NBA players under 6 feet. Iverson was listed at 6 feet tall for the entirety of his college and professional career. But believe what your eyes tell you when you watched him play, and according to former head coach Larry Brown, Iverson was 5-foot-11 or maybe 5-10.
That makes what Iverson did so much more incredible. He averaged 26.7 points, 6.2 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 2.2 steals in 914 games for his career.
1. Muggsy Bogues
Born: Jan. 9, 1965 (Baltimore, Maryland)
High school: Dunbar High School (Baltimore, Maryland)
College: Wake Forest
NBA career: 14 seasons (1987-2001)
Teams: Washington Bullets (1987-88), Charlotte Hornets (1988-97), Golden State Warriors (1997-99), Toronto Raptors (1999-2001)
Bottom Line: Muggsy Bogues
The sheer audacity of someone 5-foot-3 just making it to the NBA propels Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues to the top of this list, but it wasn't just that he made it to the league. It's because he was actually a great player in his prime.
The shortest player in NBA history, Bogues was 16.5 inches shorter than the average player in the league as a rookie out of Wake Forest in 1987 and still led the Washington Bullets in steals and assists as a rookie despite starting just 14 games.
Bogues is most well-known for playing for the expansion Charlotte Hornets in the first decade of their existence. And he averaged 7.7 points, 7.6 assists and 1.6 steals over his 14-year career.
Related: All-Time Starting Five for Every NBA Team